Tag Archives: gratitude

Day 6: Trader Joe’s, Beautiful Skies, Talent, and Grace


This thirty day challenge may end up being a one year effort to put fingers to keys! Nevertheless, here’s day 6!

  • Several weeks ago I was subcontracting for a gentleman who had an exceedingly difficult client ; and I’m not being hyberbolic in that description. In fact, I ended up walking out on the job. Left for lunch and didn’t return. Of course, I let the contractor know, and he understood completely. There really are people in the world who expect what feels like superhuman perfection from us. “Sorry, not sorry,” but I’m disinclined to play that game. Life really is too precious to compete with extra human or supernatural forces in order to please people who give so little grace to the Universe.Late in the afternoon of my second day there, I paused for lunch. In my area, there is only one relatively close Trader Joe’s, and we moved further from it when we bought a new house three years ago. Now, it’s a bit of a time luxury to go, but considering this client was giving me a headache with her “hospital corners” exactitude, I was grateful for the close proximity of a store I consider a happy place.

    Why is TJ’s a “happy place,” a respite from a storm? Isn’t is just another grocery store? No, not to this artistic soul. The music is a perfect mix of oldies tunes to which one can easily make a fool of oneself in front of ten other people doing the same. It’s almost like the old “I’m a Pepper! You’re a Pepper” Dr. Pepper ads! The light isn’t overbearing, but “just right;” the store colors and packaging are spot on for an artist- bright and crisp- with beautiful line art. The flowers at the entrance are welcoming, and I don’t think I’ve ever met a grumpy TJ’s employee. So, when an overbearing client is harshing my mellow in the most excruciating of ways, where else would I rather be within a 2 mile radius? Trader Joe’s it is!

  • Beautiful skies, particularly those near sunset, speak to my soul and whisper the lines from Alma 30:44 in the Book of Mormon:  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. 

    The majesty of massive cloud formations, the variety of colors filtering through the atmosphere, the miracle of light refraction seen in the manifestation of a multichromatic arc stretching across space- I cannot look at these things and deny the Creator of creation. There must be hundreds of cloud and sunset pictures on my phone from years of stopping to snap scenes that cause my heart to pound and words of gratitude to part my lips,”Thank you! Thank you for creating this just for us.”


  • I’ve often pondered the parable of the Talents from Matthew 25. Easily, one could interpret the Lord’s words to refer to finances or spiritual gifts. For my purposes here, I’m going with the latter and considering my artistic talent to be endowment. developing, increasing my talent hasn’t been my forte, though using what I have has been. With that, I’d say I’m like the second man in the parable, the guy who received two coins, then doubled them. He got a small, but adequate start. Image result for parable of the talentsNot so sad as to only get one coin worth of seed money, but not so respected as to get five. Have I doubled my coinage over my life time? No, I’ve still got work to do, but I am a problem solver, and I try to be realistic. As artists go, I’m good. Definitely not great, nor amazing, but in my very small sphere I do well. Figuring out where that sphere is, as it seems to keep bouncing away from me, is part of my problem (also known as ADHD). Nevertheless, there are those days when I finish a project or troubleshoot a situation at work, that a sense of gratitude overwhelms me, and I’m grateful for not burying those coins or giving up when the desire had my knees buckling.
  • Grace. Such a small word, but the whole of the eternities is contained therein. For my purposes, however, I’m not referring to the Grace Christ conferred upon us through his infinite Atonement, but rather the goodwill that we impart to one another when we acknowledge their good faith efforts in light of our own failings and limitations. As a fallible, imperfect human with limited sight, as a mother, a wife, a friend, and particularly as an #tinycontractor, I need Grace in abundant measure; when I’m doing my best, I need my efforts to be recognized, not praised, really, but at least noted…and likewise, I must do the same for others.Life is challenging! As a whole, there is no doubt that statement is true. Good days, bad days, moments in between where it feels all is falling to pieces, which often comes on the heels of all going swimmingly well! La vida est loco! Illness, kids, spouses, zigging when we should have zagged!

    Grace comes in when you pause to consider how your actions Image result for you never know what someone is going through mememight be affecting another- then you stop doing those things. Grace comes in when you’re disappointed with another, then you pause to consider what might be the root of your frustrations, and choose to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Grace comes in when someone is trying their best, but falling short of your expectations, and you take a second or two to reexamine your expectations. Grace comes in when you think of your own bad moments and how you wish others had treated you, then you chose to be kind in stead of pugnacious.

    Solo contracting is one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my 48 years. Success or failure is one one set of shoulders, and those shoulders are small and terribly human. I try to be careful about over promising, but I will admit to being the queen of “magical thinking” (read: I’m late, but no worries! I can drive 28 miles in 5 minutes!). By that I don’t mean I can’t deliver, but realistically, it IS going to take me longer than someone with a team or bigger, faster, sleeker equipment, and I’m likely to charge more because, like the local mom and pop store, I don’t make my profits by volume alone. With that, I’m so grateful when a client chooses me, despite those limitations; I’m even more grateful when they see those limitations and extend Grace when I’m “off” one day, and I need to rework something, or my family needs me, or I get a cold that puts me in bed or slows down my usually spastic self.

    May we all give and receive Grace in equal measure, one to another. Peace out!


Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?


Although, today I am to list three things for which I am grateful, the first is the only one that will get any lengthy discussion. In total, I am grateful for mentors, air conditioning, and Tempur pedic pillows & beds. The last two are pretty self-explanatory, don’t you think? I live in Houston, Texas, where summer lasts waaaaayyyyy the hell longer than it should and the humidity can be oppressive for nearly as long. We celebrate Mr. Carrier’s birthday down here (or we should)! Who is that, you ask? Check out this terrific video on “cold” to learn about this genius inventor. As for Tempur material… thank you, NASA for the research that lead to the development of this back-saving viscoelastic miracle. You rock! We had our first knock-off Tempur bed for 15 years, and just sprang for a new one. I can’t imagine sleeping on anything else long-term. Anytime we car travel, the Tempur pillows come, too. Now, about those mentors…

A hymn I have known since childhood entitled “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today,” has a first verse that reads:

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

Mentors are or should be an important part of each of our lives, as they render assistance in a myriad of areas. For the sake of brevity and focus, I’ll narrow my gratitude down to those who make my business world go ’round. Being largely self taught in my current field as a #tinycontractor, wherein I do murals, (some) faux finishes, backsplashes, fireplace updates, and increasingly, banister, cabinet, and furniture refinishing, I rely heavily on mentors. Gratefully, fortuitously, God has seen fit to place a number of such souls in my path, and I can say without reservation that each and every one of them have, at one time or another, in one way or another, helped me, cheered me, lifted my burdens, and shared their knowledge without request for compensation. For me, they have been the epitome of blessings.

When I first started painting (and watching copious amounts of HGTV) in 1999, I discovered a few paint gurus at our local Home Depot. One gentleman, Jim, a wise old codger, always had answers to my questions and advice to make jobs easier. Upon moving to Nashville from Ft. Worth in 2008, then to Houston in 2009, I rarely needed someone like him, but when I did, our local Lowe’s had a couple of employees ready to fill the gap. In 2017, my life as a stay at home and homeschooling mom drew to a close. With Brownie heading off to private school and Blondie going to university, I went back to the only thing I knew I could do to help cover their expenses without costly (and sometimes completely unnecessary) credentialing: painting.

Funny how quickly things change in a decade. Marketing, expectations, trends, materials- all different. In what felt like a blink in “mother time,” everything changed about my business. Going from Mural Mama (my first business) to 2nd Story Designs (my current business) was, and hasn’t been, smooth or easy. Yet, at every turn, people, teachers, have been there to act as guides to help me through projects of every shape and size.

Since restarting my business, I am doing things I never imagined, like wallpapering a 16′ high wall on scaffolding, tiling kitchen backsplashes, replacing the veneers on a family heirloom, and creating a board and batten wall with flex molding on an 18′ high curved staircase wall! It’s been nuts! But Alan, David and the rest of the guys at our local Rockler store are always there to answer my 875th question about something. Bill, a neighborhood woodworker extraordinaire, whom I just happened to run into one day in the early summer while spraying cabinet doors in my front yard, has become an amazing resource. Rebecca, the Faux Effects lady in Dallas who so willingly gives of her time and energy to travel and teach, and then continue to teach and reach out, well beyond the scope of her classes, is a blessing I knew I needed in order to progress my business. Steven, Daniel, Bo, Justin, Rocky, and William, my Benjamin Store and Sherwin Williams friends who guide and direct me to the best products for my projects when I’m stumped. Locally, my fellow contractors, such as Dave Cole, owner of Coastal Painting, whom I met through an on-line referral website when I desperately needed some one to paint my new (and filthy) house 3 years ago, is always willing to assist. Several months after Dave painted our house and I had restarted 2nd Story, Dave and I became fast friends and resources for each other, drawing on our individual strengths and pooling our collective know-how, depending on the job requirements. Candace Roberts of Painted Luxury, with whom I attended a color certification class, gave me direction when I started branching into cabinetry, and helped me keep from jumping off a cliff after a particularly trying client last year.

Indeed, John Donne is proven correct, yet again, in that no man or woman is an island. We have little choice but to learn from others, but we must be open to giving and receiving assistance with an understanding of how much a seemingly simply act of generosity can mean to another. ‘Thank you’ to all who have so willingly imparted of their time and knowledge to help a crazy little (former) red head further along the road of business success. You’re the best!


Gratitude Journal Challenge: Day 1


Well, as I’m looking for things to make me write, to dust off my creaking fingers and cogs, I figure a 30 day gratitude challenge is as good as anything to start me off. Some of these particular may be quick drafts to be fleshed out more in the future, some may get a long form shot out right. Who knows!? So, here goes…

#1: How has an “attitude of gratitude” blessed you in the past?

My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Though the majority of the “rough stuff” occurred prior to my marriage in 1992, there has been plenty of buffeting about in the past 27 years, too. I don’t believe I could be as functional as I am today without a sense of gratitude.

Sad to say, but not unexpectedly, it took a number of years for the comprehension of my blessings to develop. Yet, once it did, it made understanding my life’s challenges much easier…and it has kept me sane. It can be easy to stew in the anger that often results from loss and disappointment, to muck about in the mire of regrets and “what-ifs.” Yes, it’s very easy, but not productive for oneself or those near by.

As long as we live, we will have trials, things to stretch us- often beyond our sense of comfort. I’ve had a few times I’ve screamed “UNCLE” at God, among other things, but these crisis moments have been short lived.

Several years ago, after my car accident, after my last knee surgery, when I was trying to make a racewalking “comeback,” but everything that could go wrong biomechanically was and I had to stop walking. My mental health was not the best, as it felt like my body was rebelling for no good reason other than to piss me off. Nothing was working. 

It was then that I happened upon a disabled vet who had lost both legs above the knee because of an IED. We chatted for a few minutes about his injuries. He noted that he missed being able to run and play with his kids like before (and here I was whining about not being able to exercise in my preferred manner). It was definitely a sobering moment, a reminder that we just don’t always get what we want, but more often than not we have a helluva lot more than many others. Interestingly, this young vet told me he’d had his own moment at the gym one day, when he ran into a vet missing an arm. “At least I can still play catch with my son,” he observed.

It is during such times that I am grateful for the “smallness” of my struggles. I am still unable to racewalk, but I am little hindered anymore as I scale ladders for work. Yoga doesn’t feel as good as it once did, but I am still more flexible than 95 percent of the population! I still deal with depression, and was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (low thyroid) and I’m barrelling headlong into menopause, but I’m not bi-polar or schizophrenic, my thyroid issue was caught early (I had no idea!), and I can afford bioidentical hormone replacement (though I white hot hate being pelleted in the hip every 3 months!). Even my childhood traumas, and there were a few, including a broken home and sexual abuse, don’t hold a candle to the pitted path upon which so many others walk every day. 

No, I shall take my troubles and simply say ‘thank you’ to God for having the support network, the mental and physical health, the financial resources (for a therapist, and life), and my faith in a better world to come. I don’t want the difficulties others must endure. Mine are quite enough. Perspective truly is everything!